JCPB: Illuminating a region

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 27, 2012 at 10:21 AM

It was April 1888 when the lights first went on in Johnson City.

Businessmen J.E. Candrall, W.A. Dickenson, W. F. Thomas, M.I. Gump and V.G.C. Harris had formed a corporation that was generating the city’s first public supply of electricity from a plant built by James F. Crumley near what is today East Tennessee State University.

By 1890, the corporation changed hands and began operating as the Watauga Electric Lighting and Power Company and generating electricity from a steam-powered plant in a building on North Roan Street.

In 1902, Watauga was absorbed by the Johnson City-Jonesborough Electric Light and Power Company, which continued to grow through 1911 when a new Tennessee Eastern Electric Company built a hydroelectric plant on the Nolichucky River near Greeneville and bought out the smaller electric companies operating in all three cities.

By 1939, the company was known as the East Tennessee Light & Power Company and was distributing power to a more than 4,000-square-mile area that included nine counties and more than 102,000 customers, including smaller electricity distributors.

The Tennessee Valley Authority bought East Tennessee Light and Power in 1945 and sold its Johnson City district to the city. The Johnson City Power Board was created and named for the board of five representatives from the city and three from the county who were appointed to administer it.

In its first year, the Power Board served 9,778 customers. Today it serves approximately 75,000 customers in Washington, Carter, Greene and Sullivan counties and is the tenth largest of 155 power companies that purchase electricity from TVA.

A community-owned, nonprofit utility, the Power Board is now governed by representatives of Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County. In the early 2000s. the Power Board moved from North Roan Street to its current facility at 2600 Boones Creek Road, providing a more centrally located service site for its distribution area.

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